The Judgment

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With the Hague Tribunal failing to bring war criminals into justice in so many ways, Mahathir Muhammad, the former president of Malaysia, has decided to found the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to criminalize war. The KL War Crimes Tribunal does not have the pow

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad:

Former U.S president John. F. Kennedy once said, “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.

Lauren Booths :

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad is the former Malaysian Prime Minister and founder of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War.

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad:

Slavery, like war, was once considered legitimate. It took the human community centuries to abolish slavery. It may take an equally long time to criminalise war. But the first steps must be taken now if we wish to abolish war as a means of conflicts between nations. We must persist.

Lauren Booths :

The foundation was established 5 years ago and held its first tribunal last year. At a 4 day hearing in Kuala Lumpur the charge of crimes against peace was levelled at Bush and Blair for the invasion of Iraq. Instigated on the back of false information from the intelligent agencies. Both former leaders Bush and Blair were found guilty of breaching the United Nations charter and international law. Although the foundation does not have the power to enforce its judgements, it is notified the international criminal courts of its findings they hope that might one day trigger a full blown trial.

Lauren Booths :

My name is Lauren Booth. I am human right activist and broadcaster. I came to Kuala Lumpur to see if even nominally those who led the former Bush regime and who the Hague so far won't touch can be may be answer for the torture of civilians in Iraq in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay. The foundation is holding their second tribunal, and I intend to watch every moment. I spoke to Avtaran Singh, one of the lawyers for the prosecution about why this tribunal is needed and why the Hague in so many ways is no longer fulfilling its duties as the world’s court.

Lauren Booths:

We don’t let them to get away with it. Someone to take them to criminal court and they are not doing that.

Avtaran Singh:

That is the whole point. That is where you find them. When countries turn wrong in terms of not following laws, like what the United States is doing, what happens is that’s when you have the international community to step in and say, “let’s play by the rules”. But when the community also fails you, when the United Nations fails you, the ICC fails you, then what do you do? So, which is why in the end there is a serious breakdown internationally on the

application of basic justice. A lot of people here, I would share with you, I also questioning, “why are we doing this?” in Malaysia. There is a lot of that kind of question. “Why are we doing this in Malaysia, when we are not affected?” but that is the whole problem. Everybody is affected, whether you realise it or not. Because injustice isn’t justice.

Lauren Booths :

This tribunal seeks to try various members of the Bush administration for facilitating torture and war crimes. The accused are: former US President George Bush. His Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. Their advisers: Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and William Haynes are the co-accused. Being trailed here for helping the politicians put their plans into action. And lastly Jay Bybee and John Yoo lawyers in the attorney general's office, those who gave legal advice on torture to the politicians. They are accused to manipulating information to fit prepared plans. You won't see any of these eight faces again in this programme because unsurprisingly none of the eight accused attended the tribunal. The foundation had to appoint a legal team to make a case on their behalf. The first few days of the tribunal heard the three witnesses for the persecution outlining great detail their suffering at the hands of soldiers and agencies acting for the US armed forces.

Abbas Abid:

Around me there were more than 10 persons. Each person was carrying a tool for torture, like metal parts, or wood, maybe sticks and some cables and some metal chains and some rubber cables. Each person of these 10 was participating in the torture of Abbas. They would hit him in every part of his body.

Jameelah Abbas:

What you saw and heard from the media and even the picture released from Abu Ghraib is like a drop in the sea compared to what I saw there. Especially myself as my cell was in front of the torture cell. The female American soldier especially would torture me by beating me on the neck and the back. She did it forcefully every time and for long periods. They also used tools to do this, not just with me but on all prisoners.

Lauren Booths :

Inexplicably, after 6 months Jameelah was released from custody without any charge. She had been abducted from her home, beaten and abused alongside her daughter and nephew for no clear reason.

Jameelah Abbas:

Before my release, I asked one of the soldiers who interrogated me, "Why me?" She told me that they asked about women who had social position in Kirkuk and they pointed to you. She said that we are using you to scare 3000 or so women.

Moazzam Begg:

In Bagram I detained for 11 months I was intense interrogated for a month in solitary confinement by the CIA, by the FBI and US military intelligence and also by British intelligence. There are interrogators who speak of Bagram intension facility and the death of a particular taxi driver, whose name was Delavar. I used to see Delavar in my cell. His back

was towards me and he was chained to the top of the door with his hands above his head like so; and wood placed above it. And on an occasion when his body had slumped from being hung up there for several days, the guards opened the door and instead of administering to him the medical treatment that he required, they began to punch him repeatedly and then they dragged his body away. What I leant later, was that this man died in American custody and he was one of two deaths that I witnessed with my own eyes in Bagram.

Lauren Booths :

The torture that these three suffered was bad enough at the time. The psychological pain continues and Jameelah in particular still struggles with the physical repercussions of the torture. Damage was done to her back, her feet and her arms. Jameelah Abbas:

Yes, I'm suffering from what happened. I went to many doctors in Damascus and was examined. I was told that I needed an operation but it could make me handicapped if it did not succeed. Other doctors asked me to go to France as there is better medical equipment there. But I cannot afford the operation as it is too expensive for me. I still cannot wear proper shoes; I have to wear medical shoes that are open on all sides even in winter. And during winter, I cannot sleep if don't take painkillers.

Lauren Booths :

These three witnesses gave many hours of harrowing evidence of beatings, humiliation of psychological torture. What you have seen here, that’s only a small sample of their testimony. The defence also had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, with the prosecution putting forward such a strong case; the defence team were often reduced to presenting unseemly and unconvincing legal stunts.

Jason Kay Kit Leon:

The people who beat you. The people who through you through wall to wall. People who hit you and put a plastic to your leg. If they were in this chair, handcuffed, shackle, lace shackle. And no one else was in the room except you and that person. And you had a stick. What did you do with that object?

Professor Francis Boyle:

Your honour I object to this kind of questioning it is truly hypothetical, speculative and encouraging this victim of war crimes and crimes against humanity to admit that she herself might committed crime. This is preposterous battering the witness this way and trying to entrap her into admitting under some hypothetical circumstances she might committed a crime, so I object to this line of question.

Lauren Booths :

Travelling back to the hotel for the night my thoughts dwelt on the 3 torture victims. For them this is the only way that they can seek justice against the might of the American government and forces. This is the only forum that even hear their case. The wait of tens of thousands of unheard testimonies is on my mind. For the victims here is the victory just to have their experience and their pain discussed in public.

Lauren Booths :

On the 4th day, with all the evidence submitted the witnesses’ legal teams summed up their arguments and made their closing remarks. Lauren Booths :Prosecutor Boyle set about showing that even if you leave aside international law. The US's own military law and guideline states that politicians are accountable for the war crimes of their soldiers Professor Francis

Boyle:

Bush, Chany Rumsfeld. Is also responsible if he has actual knowledge and in this case they have actual knowledge, or should have knowledge though reports received by him or through other means that troops or other persons subject to his control, are about to commit or have committed a war crime, and he fails to take the necessary and reasonable steps to ensure the compliance with law war or the punish violators they are. That’s their own filed manual.

Lauren Booths :

The defence team struggled to match the prosecution's detailed work and instead opted for ever grander sweeping claims, and yes more theatrics Jason Kay Kit Leon:

Let’s get back to the session. Torture is ok after nine eleven. Torture is ok after war on terror. The world has changed. International law has changed. For the better or the worse, it doesn’t matter, the legal point is, it has changed. And we remember the place like Gettysburg. There is a fixed place with the fix uniforms army. The laws of war that the persecution has explained to us yesterday works. Yes for those wars, for those situations. International law changes after wars. That’s the point. After the war on terror, after nine eleven, yes we say torture is ok.

Professor Francis Boyle:

Professor Pauls in his mighty article recitations and I will not review here that even after nine eleven the probation on torture remains absolute and let me point out even during the darkest days of the Vietnam war what Professor Pauls was investigating war crimes are allegations. No one in the United States government argue any right to torture anyone. So, there was no excuse for what was done to anyone after nine eleven and that still remains the official position of the United States government today and especially the United States’ military.

Lauren Booths :

By this point it was easy for even a layman to see that the defence's tactics were weak and that the prosecution was brushing aside their arguments with ease. At the end of the legal arguments I caught up with Francis Boyle of the prosecution. I asked him why members of the US armed forces didn’t resist the addition of torture methods to their duties. Lauren Booths:

But then how the American constitution? I am not very bright in these areas, how the American constitution...did Bush managed, Rumsfeld managed to get this chain of command changed, why didn’t anybody go... oh...Sir. Why didn’t any commander come to him? How

did that happen?

Professor Francis Boyle:

No guts! No principles. Both staff sergeant Camilio Mejia staff sarge and first Lieutenant Ehren Watada have read field manual 20710 and they knew what was going on was wrong, and it was illegal and criminal and war crimes. And they were being asked to participate in commission of war crime. So they refused. And they were right. Which is why I helped defend them free of charge. To the best of my knowledge, they were the only two individuals were in United States Arm Forces, who said "No, I will not do this". So it raises serious questions as to the training of US Arm Forces from the top to the bottom.

Lauren Booths :

The defence was keen to defend the emotive approach they took to the tribunal as necessary in order to balance out the emotional impact of the prosecution's evidence.

Jason Kay Kit Leon:

Emotions are running high in the court in the court room. You can feel it from participants, people around here and… yes I understand the anger. Yes I understand the hurt, desperate… they feel that they have not been heard and they feel that there were no where else to turns to. Fine I understand that. But at the same time they must to understand that this is not a kangaroo court. You don't just expect the eight accused to lie down and… guilty verdict. Of course the accused are not here. So in their place what should I say as a friend of the court…I off course could put forward that the points that may have been missed against prosecutions’ case but… so to show that there is also emotional the other side.

Lauren Booths :

Journalists covering the occasion were keen to ask me about my relationship with my brother-in-law Tony Blair and his prosecution in the tribunal's previous sitting.

Journalist 1:

How do you feel one of your family members Tony Blair is war criminal?

Lauren Booths:

As a Muslim to make Doa that Tony Blair will come to Islam. As his sister-in-law I regret that he is a war criminal and he is committed these crimes and like any war criminal he should be brought to greater justice.

Lauren Booths :

I was keen to hear the perspective of these Malaysian journalists who covered the tribunal.

Lauren Booths:

What moved you most about…what did you lean you didn't know?

Journalist 2:

Well, I guess I have read about these tortures and everything but actually to have a real witness telling what happened to them of all these objectives…people being raped and how they been deprived of food and light and stuff…it is really…it makes you feel it more…understand it better.

Moazzam Begg talking to Attila

This is I think the only logical verdict after the huge amount of mass of evidence has been presented.

Attila Kiraly:

Do you have any personal feeling about that?

Moazzam Begg:

Not on a personal level but on a level of leaders. These people were tasked with leading the world. They were tasked to make it safe and they had made it the most unsafe place for decades now. These people should be not only convicted in this court but in the court of history.

Tan Sri Lamin:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have had the evidence and we are unanimous that all accuse. We are unanimous in our finding with certain respect to the evidence that the prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt and we therefore I found all accuse guilty as such.

Lauren Booths :After the verdict the prosecution team along with two of the torture victims held a press conference. They saw to emphasise the significance of their victory and send out a message that they will continue to pursue war criminals no matter what nation they call home.

Jameelah Abbas

I am overjoyed and very happy about the verdict today .I would like to thank Dr. Mahathir and his wife and this organisation and the state of Malaysia for being the only country to take a stand in our case.

Lauren Booths:

Question for Jameela, and Mazzam and yourself. The Nazi’s camps were end solution for the fascist. They wanted extermination of the people they have run it up. What has been the agenda of setting up this anyway and has it been met?

Professor Francis Boyle:

It is not to get information. They know we peruse information is to terrorise and intimidate anyone who stands in their way anywhere in the world including in the United States itself.

Jameelah Abbas:

In one case, there was a kid from Syria. They brought him in. They said to him, "You were helping Bin Laden."After numerous kicking and torture sessions, he said "Yes" just to prevent what they were doing to him. So I asked this 16 years old, "Why did you do this? Why did you confess to something that you didn't do?" He said, "Just to stop the torture."

Lauren Booths :

The question on everyone's lips off course, is 'what happens now?' This tribunal has no power of enforcement; it can only inform more powerful bodies of its verdict and hope that they act upon it.

Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar

We have to now begin to endite the present the war criminal continuing and perpetuating this policy. It is war crime. Nobody is above the law and therefore people have got to start reacting.

Moazzam Begg:

I would suggest clearly that people don't close their eyes to the crimes that have been taking place right now. The reinstitution of the Guantanamo military commission’s process is in itself a stamped approval by Obama for Guantanamo, the place that he said in the beginning when he came into the power that he would close it within a year. And yet he has given if it is approval and it continues to run.

Lauren Booths :

I caught up with Avtaran Singh one last time. I wanted to find out if president Obama could be just as vulnerable in principle at least to prosecution as his predecessor George W Bush.

Lauren Booths:

But I am just really trying to get it because I am not a legal mind of how copable Obama is? His argument.. If let's say if there is a year one tribunal and he is no longer in power and we say: "You sat over the Guantanamo Bay" 169 people were still in these terrible conditions he would say "but the decision has already being made and I just was sitting but actually as we were heard in this tribunal no you have to take positive action to end the suffering or you are copable.

Avtaran Singh:

That is true, because I think at the end of the day like I said reasonable one perpetuating the offence. So when you are perpetuating the offence you are also expensing yourself to reliability. So on that score I think the short answer would be that he is breaching international law.

Lauren Booths :

All that the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to criminalise war can do is to supply the International Criminal Court and other sovereign states with the evidence and the judgements formed here in the hope; the outside hope that one may decide to use the case build here to pursue a full prosecution against George Bush and his coterie of advisers. That said, the foundation's aim is actually much larger than mainly pursuing individual cases. Their ultimate point is to convince the international general public that the war in itself is a crime, which effects on men and women and children simply cannot be accepted. When that happens, world leaders - however powerful may finally be answerable for their crimes against humanity.

   

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